In Conversation with Nabeel Tahir

(Director Al-Fajr International Conducted by Ali Gauhar)

Q: Firstly, how did Al-Fajr International come about?

A: My father, Mr. Tahir Hassan created Al-Fajr International in 1981. He began work through indenting, particularly providing defense and electro mechanical equipment to various departments of the northern areas. In the 90s, we supplied and installed CISCO in the Parliament House. Later on,  Al-Fajr’s focus was on hydropower projects, which we are currently working on. Al- Fajr is one of the few EPC contractors in Pakistan, and one of the largest operation and maintenance hydropower contractors in the country. Al-Fajr international has over 250 employees across Pakistan.


Q: What are Al-Fajr’s core goals in the near future?

A: Al-Fajr International, in collaboration with Chinese civil contractors, and European/ Chinese equipment manufacturers aims to develop a few large hydropower stations in Pakistan. With the support of the federal and provincial governments, this will be in the larger interest of the nation.  Our company is striving hard to bring transparency in hydropower projects.


Q: Why is hydropower so crucial for Pakistan?

A: Hydropower is the cheapest and cleanest form of electricity generation. Pakistan is capable of producing thousands of mega-watts more than our current hydro-generation. It is much cheaper than solar or thermal plants, and most importantly, given the disastrous effects of climate change, it is vital that this environmentally friendly source of electricity generation continues to be promoted and utilized.


Q: What are the major challenges for contractors in the hydropower business?

A: There are a number of areas that need to be redressed. Firstly, we need to tackle corruption. Since hydropower projects involve big money, individuals with clout misuse their power. A number of amateur contractors create sham joint ventures to win projects at a lower cost. Hence, the employer suffers and important projects cannot be completed.

Another problem is the incompetence of people in charge of these projects. They are not capable of handling large hydropower projects like WAPDA. Their lack of exposure and experience in the hydropower market creates problems for contractors. It is also crucial to highlight that the government needs to have a stable, and most importantly, long-term hydropower policy. It is essential that we do not deviate by opting for coal, solar, LNG projects, etc.

We must shift our focus on the cheap, clean and largely untapped hydropower potential that Pakistan possesses.


Q: As you are well aware, solar projects are gaining ground in Pakistan. Do you believe it will make a fundamental difference in solving Pakistan’s energy crisis?

A: Certainly, however, we have to understand that the good it will do will only be at the micro-level. Let me make it clear, I am not discouraging solar power generation as it is essential to our domestic consumers. Hydropower, on the other hand, will solve Pakistan’s energy crisis.


Q: How important are dams for Pakistan?

A: We are lucky that Pakistan has tremendous simultaneous potential in hydropower and dams. Dams are vital for Pakistan’s development, because it can reduce flooding, it can store water for irrigation, and further hydropower generation. For this, three specific projects are critical for Pakistan’s future, namely Bhasha Dam, Dasu, and Mohmand Dam.


Q: How important is the 18th Amendment towards the development of the hydro-sector?

A: The 18th Amendment is essential for provincial growth. However, in the hydro-sector we lack experience and exposure at the provincial level. This seriously needs to be addressed. Individuals in the power sector need to be locally trained by institutions such as WAPDA or internationally.

It is also important to engage development sector organizations in order to train the relevant individuals to carry out their tasks efficiently.


Q: You have already identified that there is heaps of potential in the hydropower sector, but how do we manage to fund this potential?

A: Over the years we have been receiving funding from organizations such as the IMF, World Bank, and ADB. Now there are many more institutions, which are actively funding projects in Pakistan, such as AFD, KFW and the AIIB (Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank). China is also fnding some projects through CPEC, such as SukiKinari (Naran) and Kohala (Kashmir) projects. However, we should be able to use our current resources from our existing hydropower plants to fund some future projects. In the long run, Pakistan needs to be self-sufficient in funding its hydro-potential.


Q: Which equipment manufacturers are currently working in Pakistan?

A: The top equipment manufacturers of the world are all working in Pakistan. These include Voith, Andritz, and G.E/Alstom. Russian giant Power Machines has also entered the market and are actively bidding in hydropower projects. Along with these companies a few Chinese manufacturers are also working in Pakistan. Jinlun, Dongfong and Harbin are some of these companies.


Q: What equipment manufacturers does Al-Fajr International represent?

A: We have represented Power machines in Tarbela IV extension project and are now participating in the Tarbela V extension, as well as Dasu Hydel power project.

They are a huge company and bring with them a lot of experience and expertise, which helps our employees learn a lot more in this field. Al-Fajr has also supplied equipment from Jinlun in over 30 project sites in different provinces in Pakistan. Jinlun is a smaller manufacturer and is considered to be one of the best Chinese equipment suppliers in Pakistan. We have had a long relationship with Jinlun, which has been very successful with various departments.


Q: What other businesses are Al-Fajr International involved in?

A: Al-Fajr has been involved in multiple ventures over the last 35 years. We have supplied Pirelli cables to PTCL and Pirelli tires to different departments and individuals. We have represented and still represent various international companies like OTV, Bosch, Danish Interpretation System (DIS), Veolia, Bronto and many more. We have installed DIS systems in the convention center, KPK assembly and some committee rooms in the existing Punjab Assembly. Al-Fajr International has a subsidiary named Al-Fajr Salts Pvt Ltd, which is responsible for planning to carry out a state of the art Salt Solution Mining plant in Khewra, Punjab. The project has crossed the feasibility stage and will be executed in the next couple of years. Al-Fajr International also supplied rock salt to industries such as ICI, Sitara Chemicals and Ittehad chemicals over the years through its leased area in Khewra.


Q: Where do you want Al-Fajr International to be in the next 10 years?

A: I want to see Al-Fajr become the largest Operation and Maintenance Company in the hydropower sector. I also believe Al-Fajr International, with the help of the Pakistani Government, can bring in equipment manufacturers to Pakistan in order to create a facility where all hydro equipment can be manufactured in Pakistan.

I also want Al-Fajr to change the way salt mining is done in Pakistan, and for that we will introduce advanced technology so that a precedent is set for other mining companies.

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